Retrograde. Bamboozlement! More Bamboozlement!

"A Study Of Reading Habits" by Philip Larkin

When getting my nose in a book
Cured most things short of school,
It was worth ruining my eyes
To know I could still keep cool,
And deal out the old right hook
To dirty dogs twice my size.

Later, with inch-thick specs,
Evil was just my lark:
Me and my coat and fangs
Had ripping times in the dark.
The women I clubbed with sex!
I broke them up like meringues.

Don't read much now: the dude
Who lets the girl down before
The hero arrives, the chap
Who's yellow and keeps the store
Seem far too familiar. Get stewed:
Books are a load of crap.

An excerpt from 'The System of Dr Tarr and Prof Fether', by Edgar Allan Poe (1850)

We drank. The company followed our example without stint. They chatted -- they jested -- they laughed -- they perpetrated a thousand absurdities -- the fiddles shrieked -- the drum row-de-dowed -- the trombones bellowed like so many brazen bulls of Phalaris -- and the whole scene, growing gradually worse and worse, as the wines gained the ascendancy, became at length a sort of pandemonium in petto. In the meantime, Monsieur Maillard and myself, with some bottles of Sauterne and Vougeot between us, continued our conversation at the top of the voice. A word spoken in an ordinary key stood no more chance of being heard than the voice of a fish from the bottom of Niagra Falls.

"And, sir," said I, screaming in his ear, "you mentioned something before dinner about the danger incurred in the old system of soothing. How is that?"

"Yes," he replied, "there was, occasionally, very great danger indeed. There is no accounting for the caprices of madmen; and, in my opinion as well as in that of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether, it is never safe to permit them to run at large unattended. A lunatic may be 'soothed,' as it is called, for a time, but, in the end, he is very apt to become obstreperous. His cunning, too, is proverbial and great. If he has a project in view, he conceals his design with a marvellous wisdom; and the dexterity with which he counterfeits sanity, presents, to the metaphysician, one of the most singular problems in the study of mind. When a madman appears thoroughly sane, indeed, it is high time to put him in a straitjacket."

Read the Complete story here

Symbolism in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa

Symbolism in Guru Dutt’s PyaasaDirected by Guru Dutt in 1957, Pyaasa is a proclaimed and a much-acclaimed classic of the Indian Hindi Cinema. A movie worth re-viewing because after each viewing, it manages to convey some new message to us that we, might have failed to notice in last viewing. The movie is symbol-laden. It is crawling with symbols. During each viewing, a person can find some new symbol.

A line from a song in the movie:

Ye Dunia agar mil bhee jaye to kya hai.
The protagonist rejects fame but only after achieving it. He doesn’t commit suicide or die. Instead he walks away from it all after achieving it all. Hence, the moral triumph of his human spirit. Does this have echoes of the Indian concept of Renunciation found in our religious myths and our popular T.V serials.

A line from another song in the movie:
jinhen naaz hai hind par woh kahaan hain
Critics tell us that this line is a telling remark on the post Nehruvian India. How would the international community make this connection? In a way, present Indian viewers are no better than the international viewers must have been: the one that tried to understand it without symbols.

I haven’t read Sarat Chandra's novel, Srikanta, it’s the book that inspired the movie. I found it mentioned at a website. Most of the intellectualism of the movie would be lost on us, but that is where Guru Dutt’s skill as a storyteller comes to the rescue.
Most of these symbols would probably be lost on us too.
Symbolism does get lost. Or does it?
The symbols adapt based on our understanding.
Maybe, western audience can see Christian symbolism in the movie and connect. In the song, “ Yeh duniya agar”, in one scene Guru Dutt gives a crucification pose. In addition, the way -light and dark- is used, that also was symbolic. In the end after the protagonist’s renunciation, the rushing light could mean enlightenment.

Protagonist has this to say:
Jala do ise phook dalo yeh duniya…Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye toh kya hai”.

What modern symbolism could the film hold? How do we discover old symbols and give them new meaning?
As we look for the symbols, we realize nothing much has changed. The context of symbols might have changed but the meaning remains the same. That’s what makes Pyaasa such a timeless classic. It talked about fallacy of man and since when wasn’t the man fallible.
The movie is an indictment of people like us. It exposes our ‘ready to bend for a dime’ attitude and ‘chadtey suraj ko salaamfitrat. The man of the movie holds the dime in contempt and even the whole world (including our Kamar -bent- Salaams) in contempt.

Astonishingly, the movie was a commercial success.

But, Guru Dutt knew duniya ka kuch nahi ho sakta.

Guru made Kaagaz Ke Phool next in 1959.

On October 10, 1964, Guru Dutt was found dead in his bed in his rented apartment at Pedder Road in Mumbai. He is said to have been mixing alcohol and sleeping pills. His death may have been suicide, or just an accidental overdose. Had he survived, it would have been his third suicide attempt.

Books about books: Anne Fadiman's personal list

The Book about Books: The Anatomy of Bibliomania

by Holbrook Jackson

A History of Reading

by Alberto Manguel

84 Charing Cross Road
by Helene Hanff

Great Books

by David Denby


edited by Steven Gilbar


edited by Gerald Donaldson

The Book-lover’s Enchiridion

edited by Alexander Ireland

The Romance of the Books
by Marshall Brooks

The wonderful Books

edited by Michael Dorrie and Emilie Buchwald

Penny Wise and Book Foolish
by Vincent Starrett

A Gentle Madness

by Nicholas A. Basbanes

On Book and the Housing of Them

by W.E Gladstone

The Size of Thoughts

by Nicholson Barker

Anne Fadiman
is the author of the book Ex-Libris: Confessions of a common reader.
Found the list in a review of the book, done by Pradeep Sebastian for the Gentleman Magazine, June 2000 issue.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Chronic remorse, as all the moralists are agreed, is a most undesirable sentiment. If you have behaved badly, repent, make what amends you can and address yourself to the task of behaving better next time. On no account brood over your wrongdoing. Rolling in the muck is not the best way of getting clean.

~ Aldous Huxley, Foreword to Brave New World

'Inspired' Bollywood Sings Song.

'Sitar, Guitar: Inspired' Bollywood Sings Song.Recently, I played a quiz at Funtrivia. The quiz was about Hindi songs copied from English songs. Some of the Q&As were quite obvious. Yet, some were very interesting. I scored just above average in the quiz. Here are some of the things that I would like to share:

*The title song of "Dil Deke Dekho"(1959) was lifted by Usha Khanna from the song 'Sugartime' by The McGuire Sisters.

*The Song ‘'Tera Mujhse Hai Pehle Ka Naata Koi' from Movie “Aa Gale Lag Ja”(1973) had two versions. Both copied for the film by dear R.D Burman from the song 'The Yellow Rose of Texas' by Elvis Presley appearing in the 1963 movie "Viva Las Vegas".

*'Aate Jaate' from "Maine Pyaar Kiya" (1989) was lifted from 'I Just Called To Say I Love You' by Stevie Wonder. Music director of this movie,Ram Laxman, also lifted tunes for two other English songs for this film.
‘Tum Ladke Ho’ and ‘Mere Rang Mein’ were copied from Baltimore’s Tarzan Boy’ and Europe’s ‘Final Countdown’+ theme from Love Story (Where Do I Begin?) Love Story. respectively.

*Song 'O Mere Sapno Ke Saudagar' from Movie "Dil Hai Ki Maanta Nahin" (1992) is a copy of the hit song 'Bachelor Boy' by Cliff Richards. Blame Nadeem-Shravan for that.

*Movie "Akele Hum Akele Tum"(1995) had music by the greatest copycat musician of all, music director Anu Malik. 4 out of the 5 songs from the movie were copy of one English song or the other.The title track of the movie was copied from a 1959 song 'But You Love Me Daddy' by Jim Reeves and with words and music set by Kathryn Twitty.
Beside this, for other songs, ‘Love Theme’ by Nino Rota for “Godfather”, ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham and Deep Purple’s ‘Sweet Child in Time’, were used by Anu Malik.Also, the movie itself was based on “Kramer vs Kramer” (1979) by Robert Benton.

*The track 'Jeena, Pyaar Se Jeena' from the movie "Yeh Tera Ghar, Yeh Mera Ghar"(2002) has been blatantly copied from the popular song 'Nina, Pretty Ballerina' by ABBA.

*'Pal Pal' from one of 2006's biggest hits, "Lage Raho Munnabhai", is lifted from 'Theme For A Dream' by Cliff Richards. Blame music director Shantanu Moitra for that.

"Astronomer" by A. K. Ramanujan

Sky-man in a manhole
with astronomy for dream,
astrology for nightmare;
fat man full of proverbs,
the language of lean years,
living in square after
almanac square
prefiguring the day
of windfall and landslide
through a calculus
of good hours,
clutching at the tear
in his birthday shirt
as at a hole
in his mildewed horoscope,
squinting at the parallax
of black planets,
his Tiger, his Hare
moving in Sanskrit zodiacs,
forever troubled
by the fractions, the kidneys
in his Tamil flesh,
his body the Great Bear
dipping for the honey,
the woman-smell
in the small curly hair
down there

~A. K. Ramanujan(Second Sight, 1986)
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